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Monday, August 3, 2009

Baseball Bunting - To Squeeze Or Not To Squeeze

All good teams must be able to bunt, but is the squeeze play really a high percentage play? The following article gives talks about the positive and negatives for the bunt squeeze and discusses the best alternative.

By Mike Posey

In 1995, we won our first state championship. We had superior pitching that year with our top two arms going on to play Division I college baseball. During the playoffs that year we allowed only two earned runs and pitched several shutouts. In the finals we won 7-0 and 2-0, finishing the year at 31-4. But we almost lost in the first game of the playoffs. By far it was our most challenging opponent.

The final score in our first playoff game was 2-1. We were down 1-0 until the bottom of the seventh inning when we scored two runs, on consecutive squeeze bunts, to win the game.

Fast forward nine years later to 2004. We lost in the state championship game 2-0 in 10 innings. We hit a total of 41 homeruns that year. We had some outstanding players on that team, including four All State players, one All American, and the State Player of the Year. In the championship game, our starting pitcher struck out twelve opposing hitters in seven innings, but we could not score a run. In fact, that was the only time all year we failed to score a run. (We averaged almost eight runs per game).

Due to our offensive explosion that season, we did not rely much on bunting. In fact, early in the year we we missed a squeeze bunt and popped up into a double play at the plate. The rest of that season we really stayed away from the bunt, especially the squeeze. We had such a good hitting team that one of our players was always coming through with a clutch hit, at least until the championship game.

At the end of that season, our coaching staff decided that we would again dedicate ourselves to the bunt, regardless of our offense. Our teams over the years had been good bunting teams, something we really practiced hard to accomplish. But we did change one thing, we implemented the safety squeeze instead of a straight squeeze.

The safety squeeze is the best high percentage play in baseball for scoring a run. When executed properly the opposing team can not stop you from scoring a run. If the bunt is unsuccessful you will still have a runner at third base.

Here's how we implement the safety squeeze. First, the hitter looks for a good pitch. It's much like the sacrifice bunt, but we have them wait to square after the pitcher picks up his front foot to deliver the pitch. We try to pick out a time when the opposing team is least suspecting it as the element of surprise can really help.

Second, we want the batter to bunt a ball down the foul line (either line). If the pitch is not a strike or either the first baseman or third baseman charges hard, the hitter pulls back.

The runner must have a good walking lead from third base (length of the lead depends on whether the pitcher is in a stretch or wind up). The runner at third reads the bunt down on the baseline and continues to run towards home. If the bunt is not down or towards the lines the runner does not go. Pretty simple, but you have to spend time in practice to perfect the timing and execution.

Our players love to execute this play and it really turns the momentum in our favor. By the way, in 2007 we won another state championship. Down 2-0 in the 3rd inning we scored four runs, on three bunts and one safety squeeze. The defense feel apart.

Mike Posey has been a high school baseball coach for the past twenty-five years, winning multiple championships and coach of the year honors. He is also the creator and owner of Expert Baseball Tips Home of the Baseball eLessons virtual on line lessons to help players improve.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick